Share 14 Monumental Books to Read on the Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

14 Monumental Books to Read on the Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Erin Flaaen is a corporate marketing assistant at Simon and Schuster. Despite her innocent appearance, she loves dark stories, having been strongly influenced by Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner as a teenager. Originally from Arizona, she moved to New York in 2014 and now spends her days being constantly confused by the weather, craving Mexican food, and reading books on trains.

From the soldiers on the front lines in North Africa, Normandy, and the Pacific to the civilians fighting with the Resistance in Nazi-occupied territory, we’ll always be grateful to those who gave their lives and those who fought in World War II.

Today, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we’ve gathered some of the most intimate, heart-wrenching, and transfixing nonfiction accounts of the war.

by Laura Hillenbrand
In September 1941, Olympic runner Louis Zamperini enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. Two years later, when his B-24 bomber crashed into the Pacific, against all odds, Zamperini survived. Surrounded by thousands of miles of open ocean and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini’s journey serves as a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

by Antony Beevor

Over the course of 7 months in 1942, Hitler’s army laid siege to the Russian city of Stalingrad. The Russians sought to hold the city by any means necessary, and the battle that followed cost more than a million lives. Antony Beevor’s harrowing account shows the experiences of soldiers on both sides and the chilling stories of the civilians trapped within the city.

An Army at Dawn
by Rick Atkinson
From 1942 to 1943, World War II spread into North Africa with battles unfolding that would ultimately aid in the Allied victory over the Third Reich. AN ARMY AT DAWN is a vivid narrative of the American and British armies as they fought the French in Morocco and the Germans and Italians in Tunisia—growing from a poorly led army into a superb fighting force.

The Longest Winter
by Alex Kershaw

In December 1944, 18 American soldiers found themselves in the path of Hitler’s massive Ardennes offensive. Told to hold their position, they resisted 3 German assaults before being forced to surrender. THE LONGEST WINTER is the story of these brave young men and their struggle to survive in German POW camps.

The Rape of Nanking
by Iris Chang

Years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the stage for the war was set in the Pacific. In December 1937, the Japanese army invaded the city of Nanking, systematically raping, torturing, and murdering 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers. Bringing a voice to both survivors and the deceased, Iris Chang tells the often forgotten story of this horrifying siege.

Escape From Davao
by John D. Lukacs

On April 4, 1943, 10 American prisoners and 2 Filipino convicts executed a daring escape from one of Japan’s most notorious prison camps in the Philippines. Including biographical descriptions of the Americans involved, the horrors of their capture, imprisonment, and maltreatment, John D. Lukacs’ landmark narrative is the first book to bring these stories to life.

Women Heroes of World War II
by Kathryn J. Atwood

From operating radios to joining the Resistance, women were a crucial part of the war effort and of defeating the Axis powers. With many of the most influential works of WWII nonfiction focusing on the men on the front lines, the women who aided in the war are often forgotten. Kathryn J. Atwood’s WOMEN HEROES OF WORLD WAR II covers the important roles women played in World War II.

Irena's Children
by Tilar J. Mazzeo

In 1942, Irena Sendler, a young social worker, was granted access to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health inspector. In the months that followed, she managed to smuggle out 2,500 children, saving them from death and deportation.

The Irregulars
by Jennet Conant

Prior to the United States entering the war in Europe, Britain sent a group of spies to Washington, tasked with using their wit and good looks to influence American politics. Years before he created Willy Wonka and other beloved characters, Roald Dahl was one such spy. In this carefully researched narrative, Jennet Conant conveys a story of deceit, double-dealing, and espionage.

With the Old Breed
by E. B. Sledge

Based on notes E. B. Sledge secretly kept in a copy of the New Testament during battle, WITH THE OLD BREED portrays his journey from leaving Alabama to becoming part of the war’s 1st Marine Division—3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Fighting in the battle of Peleliu before being thrown into Okinawa, Sledge’s experiences illustrate the horrors of the war in the Pacific.

If You Survive
by George Wilson

In this gripping memoir, George Wilson tells his experience fighting in Europe during the final years of the war. Wilson was the lone survivor of Company F, 4th Infantry Division, and his memoir focuses both on the battles he fought and coming out of the war not as a victor but as an exhausted survivor.

The Boys' Crusade
by Paul Fussell

This narrative is the mesmerizing story of an American infantryman in Europe. Partially drawing from his own experiences, Paul Fussell focuses on the raw action and human emotion triggered by the horror and intense sorrows of war through the eyes of the young soldiers who fought on the front lines.

Descent into Darkness
by Edward C. Raymer

Following the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor, Edward C. Raymer was the head of a group of U.S. Navy salvage divers called in to attempt to rescue sailors and salvage vital war material. Raymer’s memoir tells how he and his team were able to perform this seemingly impossible job by using untested and potentially deadly diving techniques.

Things We Couldn't Say
by Diet Eman

This riveting and heart-wrenching true story focuses on Diet Eman, a young Dutch woman who, along with her fiancé, risked her life working with the Resistance, ultimately saving hundreds of Dutch Jews. Including excerpts of the personal diary Diet kept during the war, this is a powerful look at those fighting against the Third Reich from within Nazi-occupied territory.

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